Magazine article Business Credit

Process Improvement Solutions May Be Closer Than You Thought

Magazine article Business Credit

Process Improvement Solutions May Be Closer Than You Thought

Article excerpt

Today's credit executives continue to face the challenge of increasing productivity with fewer resources--namely personnel and money.

One of more labor-intensive functions within most firms is the "billing to cash" application process. Or, as some call it, "cradle to grave". If you are still collecting and applying cash the old-fashioned way, you may be missing an opportunity to reduce processing costs and speed up cash flow simultaneously.

Although we have heard about the "checkless society" for several years, the majority of businesses are still a long way from checkless transactions. While the technology--hardware and software--to handle B2B (business-to-business) transactions has existed for some time, commercial firms have been slow to climb onto the bandwagon.

Many credit executives may hesitate to explore available technology due to a lack of experience and/or knowledge of how it can be used to make their lives easier and improve their companies' cash position. Others may still believe in the old adage, "If it isn't broke, don't fix it." However, those who see value in process improvement would say, "If it isn't broke, break it, and then fix it right!"

To the credit executive who has been hesitant about "automation," my advice is, "jump in, the water is fine." I recommend sitting down with your IT folks to openly discuss the areas you would like to change or improve and to determine if your present system can support such changes or improvements. A good friend of mine, who is a senior consultant for SAP, frequently reminds me that the majority of enterprise resource planning (ERP) system users utilize approximately duly 50-60 percent of their systems. The following list of functions would be a good starting point for discussion:

* Invoice/Statement delivery

* Collection letter series

* Deduction management

* Payment method

* Cash application

* Management reporting

When talking with your IT staff, don't assume that they know your job and/or the functions for which you are responsible. The better they understand your job and functions, the more they will be able to assist you in achieving your process improvement goals. You may be pleasantly surprised how easily your goals can he accomplished.

Delivery of invoices and customer statements electronically can be accomplished in several ways: web based access--customer accesses creditor's web page using login and password, downloads documents; e-mail--documents are e-mailed to customers as an attachment; or, documents can be faxed directly to customer from system or desktop. Electronic delivery reduces or eliminates the costs associated with printing and mailing invoices and statements.

Most ERP systems--including SAP,, BaaN, Oracle, PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards--are capable of generating a series of collection letters based on the parameters and text you determine. Such letters can generally be transmitted electronically via e-mail and fax, or printed and mailed. You determine the type of customer that would most likely respond to such letters. Electronic delivery reduces time spent by a credit or collection person printing and mailing letters, as well as the postage costs.

Deduction management can be handled by software presently available on the market or through outsourcing. Reduction or elimination of time spent physically dealing with customer deductions--as well as reducing deductions themselves--will generally offset the cost of software or outsourcing. …

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